Ethical issues in contraceptive technology

Draper Fund Rep. 1983 Aug:(12):24-6.


PIP: Although family planning has been practiced throughout the world since earliest times, the population and family planning field is still confronted by difficult ethical issues. More contraceptive research is needed within developing countries so that the resulting technology will reflect local conditions. The politicization of contraceptive development and testing impedes consideration of the ethical issues. High ethical standards must be maintained, with attention to such aspects as the choice of human subjects to avoid double standards or discriminatory practices. The World Health Organization is helping to resolve ethical problems of contraceptive testing through its network of test centers in both developed and developing countries. Those who argue that it is unethical to offer contraceptives without providing health coverage as well overlook the contribution of birth spacing to health. Access to full and accurate information and services for family planning has been accepted as a basic human right. The consent of the individual choosing a contraceptive method must remain inviolate. There should be no preselection of method by program or service personnel, and no information on the contraceptive should be withheld. The issues of spousal and parental consent and withholding services from unmarried persons must be faced in diverse social and cultural contexts. In the debate over abortion, the ethics of withholding a technique known to be less hazardous than carrying a pregnancy to term should be considered, as should the morality of denying to the poor a service available to wealthier women regardless of its legality. Governments or programs which manipulate the availability of family planning information or services for demographic or other reasons are acting unethically.

MeSH terms

  • Communication*
  • Contraception*
  • Developing Countries*
  • Ethics*
  • Family Planning Services*
  • Health Planning*
  • Politics*
  • Research